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The Sounds of Cancer


A musician with breast cancer reflects on the power of music in our health and healing.

I've been a musician and songwriter for over 50 years, and I've had male breast cancer for less than five years. But as I look back at my compositions since my diagnosis, I can see a distinct pattern emerge. My first song, written before the stitches had been removed from my left breast, was a comedy piece, filled with puns and good humor about my predicament. Called "What Good is a Breast?" the song embodied a strange giddiness I was experiencing, with my emotions running high and with my disease still fresh and unknown to a great extent. It made me laugh.

A few days later, the seriousness of my cancer began to set in, and I began to question what the future would be like, not only for me, but for my wife, if I were to die soon. "What Shall I Leave Behind?" became my ballad of sadness, allowing me to question what was of value in my life, and what and how I would choose to be remembered.

"When the Laughter's Gone" was written next as part of a CD package I created to share Laughter Yoga, a technique for which I became a certified teacher a decade ago. Laughter heals. It's a wonderful tool to ease our cancer-related anxiety, lower our blood pressure and the stress hormone, cortisol, and improve our overall disposition - all of which has now been well documented through a number of scientific studies.

"Goodbye Love" followed, and it was a rather somber tune that allowed me to honor my loved ones along with my reverence for life.

"Time Keeper" was next, and spoke of the impermanence of our lives. It became one of my favorites.

"Thirty Thousand Days" was a reference to the fact that the average human life span is just that. I found that to be a sobering proposition and, despite the subject matter, it made for an upbeat and peppy tune.

About a year into my recovery, I decided to dedicate my life and my passion for music by writing a full-length theatrical musical about male breast cancer with the intention of finding a sponsor to share it with a national tour.

Now, 16 months into the writing with 12 tunes created specifically for the show, the song titles express what I've been feeling as I've worked daily on this program. "One Simple Cell,” "The Magic of a Dream,” "What if I Die?", "Why is There Cancer in the World?”, "Life is a Circus" and "Cell Mates" all have revealed my emotional state as this project, and my cancer continue to unfold.

Song titles for a musician are an open diary, a public view that reveals the writer’s intent, purpose and state of mind.

Take a look at the songs you enjoy listening to and as an experiment, jot down their titles. There's something to be learned by doing so. You'll find a musical record of your own feelings and preferences as you work through your own cancer experience. As for my own compositions, some make me laugh while others still bring a tear to my eye. The power of music is remarkable. Just as writing music is my expression of the life I'm living at any given moment, listening to music can be a window into the soul of any listener.

You can listen to all 12 show tunes at: www.MaleBreastCancerSurvivor.com

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